Mexico Sees Key NAFTA Issues with U.S. Resolved Next Week, Canada Likely to Rejoin Soon

Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Friday there were “very good probabilities” Mexico and the United States would resolve key issues in NAFTA trade talks next week, adding that Canada would likely soon rejoin the negotiations.

Mexican and U.S. teams will keep working over the weekend to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the ministers would return to the table later next week, Guajardo told reporters after meetings with U.S. officials in Washington.

Mexico and the United States resumed talks last week, after a U.S. move to slap tariffs on Mexican and Canadian metal exports and Mexico’s July elections stalled negotiations that began last year when President Donald Trump demanded a better deal for U.S. workers.

“Technically, we are ready to move into finishing the issues, Mexico-U.S. issues, the most next week. There are very good probabilities that we’ll be landing solutions,” Guajardo said in English.

“We are optimistic that we can try to land a deal before the end of August.”

Canada has not been at the table in rounds of talks over the past weeks. Some experts say this is a sign of tensions between Canada and the United States, while officials insist trilateral talks will soon resume.

Guajardo said Mexico and U.S. negotiators would work through the weekend to advance talks and that he could meet again with top U.S. officials on Wednesday or Thursday.

He said most issues had been agreed upon but that “there are three critical, specific points we have to resolve.” He declined to specify what those points were.

Rules for the auto sector, including a U.S. demand for higher wages in Mexico, as well as a U.S.-proposed “sunset clause” which would kill the deal if it is not renegotiated every five years, have been major stumbling block to talks.

Guajardo said neither the sunset clause nor wages were being discussed between Mexico and the United States on Friday.

SOURCE: Reuters, by Daphne PsaledakisDavid Lawder